HOPE Career Grants: Realizing the Full Potential of Targeted Workforce Investments

HOPE Career Grant Programs, Fall 2017

  • Automotive Technology
  • Aviation Technology
  • Certified Engineer Assistant
  • Commercial Truck Driving
  • Computer Programming
  • Computer Technology
  • Construction Technology
  • Diesel Equipment Technology
  • Early Childhood Care and Education
  • Electrical Lineman Technology
  • Health Science
  • Industrial Maintenance
  • Logistics/Transportation Technology
  • Movie Production Set Design
  • Practical Nursing
  • Precision Manufacturing
  • Welding and Joining Technology

The HOPE Career Grant started in fall 2013 as the Strategic Industries Workforce Development Grant. The grant aims to financially support students who enroll in technical college programs identified as strategically important to the state’s economic growth.

The grant pays part of tuition for certain certificate and diploma programs at public technical colleges. HOPE Career Grants apply to 17 programs, up from the original seven.[1]

Lottery dollars fund HOPE Career Grants. In the 2017 budget year, the state awarded nearly $10 million in HOPE Career Grants on top of $55 million in HOPE and Zell Miller grants. About 15,000 students received the grants.[2] Awards range from $125 to $500 per semester, based on the number of enrolled hours.

Total funding for HOPE Career Grants, HOPE Grants and Zell Miller Grants remained flat at $109 million since 2015. Meanwhile, technical college enrollment fell, which is typical when the economy improves and more people find work. But as the state adds eligible programs and awareness grows, the number of students receiving HOPE Career Grants and the dollar amount of awards both increased. Certificate and diploma enrollment fell 22 percent from 2014 to 2017 while the number of HOPE Career Grant students rose by 113 percent. Today, one in five certificate or diploma students receives the HOPE Career Grant.

Source: Technical College System of Georgia, Georgia Student Finance Commission.

How it Works

The technical college system describes HOPE Career Grants as “free tuition.” Though the HOPE Career Grant alone does not cover full tuition, the combination of the HOPE Grant and HOPE Career Grant will cover tuition. Students who receive the Zell Miller Grant can also receive the HOPE Career Grant if the combined awards do not exceed the cost of attendance.

Students must apply and qualify for the HOPE or Zell Miller grant to qualify for the HOPE Career Grant. Eligibility requirements include a 2.0 GPA, Georgia residency and good standing on student loans. Students must also not exceed the maximum award limit for HOPE.

2.0 GPA + Enroll in specific program  HOPE Career Grant

HOPE Grant + HOPE Career Grant = Full Tuition

HOPE Career Grants cannot be applied to college fees and equipment or supplies costs. Grants do not apply to associate’s degree programs in the same fields.

Who uses HOPE Career Grants?

In the 2016-2017 school year, about 15,000 certificate and diploma students received HOPE Career Grants. The most popular HOPE Career Grant programs were Practical Nursing, Health Science, Early Childhood Care and Education, and Welding and Joining Technology.

HOPE Career Grant Category # Students Received Career Grant, 2016-2017
Practical Nursing 2,609
Health Science 2,578
Early Childhood Care and Education 2,517
Welding and Joining Technology 2,098
Commercial Truck Driving 1,365
Computer Technology 1,184
Industrial Maintenance 861
Computer Programming 472
Diesel Equipment Technology 468
Precision Manufacturing 386
Movie Production Set Design 376
Certified Engineer Assistant 26

Source: Technical College System of Georgia

Women receive 55 percent of HOPE Career Grants. Women account for 62 percent of total technical college enrollment.

Source: Technical College System of Georgia, 2016-2017

HOPE Career Grant recipients are almost evenly split among black and white students. This closely mirrors the racial-ethnic distribution of total technical college students.

Source: Technical College System of Georgia, AY 2017

Strengthening HOPE Career Grants

HOPE Career Grants are a sound investment to help students reach career and education goals and support Georgia’s economic development. As the state adds eligible programs, two options can further strengthen the grant in its goal to connect skilled workers to available jobs.

Include associate’s degrees in HOPE Career Grants. HOPE Career Grants support students who pursue certificates and diplomas in high-demand fields but not associate’s degrees in those same fields. A student pursuing a practical nursing diploma, the most popular HOPE Career Grant program, can get a HOPE Career Grant. But a student in an associate’s degree nursing degree program cannot.

Associate’s degrees in high-demand fields often yield a high return on investment, with median earnings much higher than a technical certificate in the same field. Median earnings five years after an associate’s degree in health professions is $19,172 more, or 80 percent higher, than a technical certificate, according to the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement.[3]

Many associate’s degrees students also have great financial need and can benefit from tuition assistance. In Georgia, a larger share of associate’s degree students qualifies for the need-based Pell Grant than certificate or diploma students.[4]

Including associate’s degrees in high-demand fields can help an estimated 7,000 technical college students at a cost of $2.6 million.[5] In the university system, this change cand support up to 14,000 students at a cost of $12.8 million.[6]

Extend HOPE Career Grants to all technical certificate and diploma programs. HOPE Career Grants grew over the past five years to cover 17 programs with flat funding. Extending HOPE Career Grant tuition benefits to all technical certificate and diploma programs can give a financial boost to students pursuing these career credentials. Technical colleges are attuned to local employers’ workforce needs and work to make sure all programs are relevant.

Similar initiatives nationwide led to enrollment gains, increases in students accessing federal financial aid (if applying is made a requirement for receiving grants), and a decrease in students taking out loans.

A 2015 proposal for HOPE grants to cover full tuition for all technical certificates and diplomas was estimated to cost $21 million a year.[7] The lottery surplus for 2016 and 2017 averaged over $51 million per year, and reserves for HOPE and Pre-K now total over $1 billion. That indicates lottery revenues are likely healthy enough to support targeted expansions of Georgia’s higher education approach.


[1] To see full and current list of approved majors, visit gafutures.org

[2] Georgia Student Finance Commission, Annual Report 2017. https://gsfc.georgia.gov/sites/gsfc.georgia.gov/files/GSFCAnnualReport2017_DIGITAL.pdf

[3] Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, Georgia Higher Learning and Earnings. https://learnearn.gosa.ga.gov/

[4] GBPI analysis of University System of Georgia and Technical College System of Georgia data.

[5] This estimate assumes 19 percent of associate’s degree students would made eligible for HOPE Career Grants and that the average HOPE Career Grant award would be $380, or the difference between average tuition and the average HOPE award at technical colleges.

[6] This estimate assumes the average HOPE Career Grant award would be $1,880, or the difference between average tuition and average HOPE award at state colleges. The university system estimate may be an upper limit because USG associate’s degrees tend not to fall into existing HOPE Career Grant programs.

[7] Department of Audits and Accounts (2015, Jan 12). Fiscal note for House Bill 22 (LC 33 5699).

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